Saturday, February 12, 2011

Father James Farfaglia: Marriage Is Forever!

“You have heard that it was said,You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 27-28).
These words spoken by our Lord provide an excellent opportunity for us to reflect upon the Sacrament of Marriage.

The Sacrament of Marriage represents a lifelong commitment on the part of the spouses.  For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part; marriage is forever.

Increasingly the dominant American culture has intensified the barrage against marriage. Every day millions of living rooms are inundated with the lustful images depicted in soap operas, situation comedies, movies, talk shows and music videos. Magazines extol immoral lifestyles. Weekly tabloids play up the scandalous sexual proclivities of film, sports and television celebrities.

This onslaught against marriage has been relentless, seemingly working toward discrediting the notion of Christian marriage as an institution and cornerstone of society.
It is very easy for married couples to become discouraged and overwhelmed.  For this reason I wrote a book for men which has helped thousands of men around the world to see the beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage and it has given them the practical tools to live a faithful, successful and joyful marriage.
Since there is so much confusion about marriage even among Catholics, it is important that we remember some basics facts about marriage as a sacrament.

What Circumstances Can Make A Marriage Invalid?
1) A man and a woman living together under the same roof, unmarried and engaging in sexual intimacy are committing fornication, a mortal sin.
2) Parents who tolerate this promiscuity in their homes also commit a mortal sin.
3) A civil marriage between two Catholics or between a Catholic and a Protestant is not a marriage.  This may be a sin of fornication or adultery depending on the circumstances.
4) A divorced Catholic spouse who enters into a new marriage civilly before receiving an annulment commits adultery.  He or she needs to wait for the annulment before entering into a new marriage.
5) When a divorced Catholic spouse seeking an annulment does not wait for the annulment process to be completed and enters into a new marriage in any Protestant church, this too is adultery.  The divorced spouse is still married.
6) A Catholic who marries in a Protestant church without the proper dispensation from the bishop of the diocese enters into an invalid marriage.
7) A marriage between homosexual partners is not a marriage.

A Guide To Handling The Above Cases
In all of the cases stated above, those living in any of these irregular situations cannot receive Holy Communion until they reconcile their lives with God.   Reconciliation can take place in the following manner:
Case #1 – The couple will first need to split up, confess their sin and receive absolution; and then marry in the Church. If they really love one another, they will be more concerned about the salvation of their souls.
Case #2 – The parents who have been tolerating this situation of sexual intimacy before marriage need to become more demanding and urge the couple to split up and marry in the Church.  The parents need to go to Confession.
Case #3 – If no previous marriage exists, couples in these circumstances must go to Confession and then contract a valid marriage in the Catholic Church.
Cases # 4 and #5 – Before these individuals can go to Confession and receive Communion, they will need to obtain an annulment.  If there are no dependent children living in the household, they should split up until they have obtained the annulment.  If there are dependent children in the home, the couple should avoid sexual intimacy by separating or by living in separate rooms until they have obtained the annulment.  By living in a state of celibacy, they can then approach the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist.
Case #6 – Those having attempted marriage in this manner need to have the marriage validated and blessed by a Catholic priest.
Case #7 –Ceremonies of this sort can never be marriages. Catholics must never attend these ceremonies because they give rise to scandal.

Moral Relativism And Hedonism Has Contributed To Great Confusion Among Catholics
Aside from all of the confusion caused by moral relativism and hedonism, more Catholics in recent decades have become confused by the alarming number of annulments being granted to Catholics on what many regard as slender or insufficient grounds.
An annulment is not a Catholic divorce, as some mistakenly believe. A valid marriage signifies the full and free consent of a man and woman to live together in Holy Matrimony for the rest of their lives.  An annulment means that an impediment exists which has hindered the full and free consent of those contracting marriage.
Many Catholic priests agree with my experience, that in the majority of cases, the large number of failed marriages has resulted from the couples having  been insufficiently prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage in the first place. True, many couples do marry for the wrong reasons; however, parishes in many parts of the country have been negligent in providing thorough and caring marriage preparation for engaged couples.

Chastity Is The Best Preparation For Marriage
Still, the best preparation for marriage is Christian chastity.  It is this virtue of chastity that helps a married couple to remain faithful to one another. But, if young people are not being sufficiently challenged to cultivate this virtue, we may be marrying many who have developed profound sexual addictions through a promiscuous life style; and these addictions in and of themselves will not allow for the necessary full and free consent to take place.
Whether clergy or concerned lay people, we need to take the time to help young people live chastely in a very difficult world.  Encouraging them to develop a rich Eucharistic life, to use the Sacrament of Confession frequently, to practice devotion to Mary and to avail themselves of on-going spiritual direction, all these are the proven ways by which we can help strengthen young people to live out their relationship with Jesus and each other.
The Church must not capitulate to the clamors of the secular world.  By the holiness of their lives, both the clergy and married couples can be a wonderful help to those who are called to the Sacrament of Marriage.

Fidelity Is The Path In Which One Finds Personal Joy and Peace
For those who are already married, mutual fidelity is the path that provides personal joy and peace.  However, subject as we are to the effects of Original Sin, we are all fallen creatures of flesh and blood, and it is normal that fidelity can prove a struggle. For married couples a daily renewal of their personal commitment to their spouses, a well disciplined spiritual life and a realistic acceptance of their own personal limitations will provide the lasting strength to remain faithful until death.
As a priest, I have always delighted in the exuberant joy of young couples as they marry and then bring their first child to the parish to be baptized.  I have always admired those elderly couples, who after the many years of happiness and patience, still faithfully wear their wedding rings by now embedded in the worn and wrinkled fingers that have been tried by the adversities of life.

The Church Always Welcomes Those Who Suffer In Difficult Marital Situations
Finally, although the Catholic Church upholds the indissolubility of marriage, the Church always welcomes her children who are divorced and separated.  Those who suffer from difficult marital situations are always welcomed as living members of Christ’s Church.  Even in those situations where individuals may not be able to participate fully in the Eucharist, the doors of the Catholic Church remain open to all, welcoming all to be living members of the family of God.
No matter how difficult a personal history or situation may be, there is always a solution for those who are open to doing God’s will. And all those who are entrusted with the pastoral care of souls must be kind, patient, compassionate, understanding and willing to spend a lot of time ministering to all those who seek their loving care.
This weekend many will be celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day.  The annual celebration of this beautiful day provides married couples to renew their love for each other.  This feast day also provides young people who preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage to live a profoundly chaste love.  Again, as I explained in my book, chastity is the antidote to lust.

Lust is a distortion of love.  Chastity is true love.

No comments:

Post a Comment